Poles call for anti-hate crime action

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Migrant Poles called on the Government today to introduce new measures to combat anti-Polish hate crime amid fears that it has increased during the economic downturn.

The Federation of Poles in Great Britain said it was increasingly concerned by the growing number of racist incidents in which Poles were victims last year.

Spokesman Wiktor Moszczynski said there was anecdotal evidence to suggest that the downturn was fuelling a backlash against Polish economic migrants blamed for taking British jobs.

He said: "We are aware that many of these incidents occur because of growing tension in the traditional indigenous population following increasing anxiety about job losses.

"While the Polish workforce has proved to be highly flexible and some 300,000 appear to have left the country now as the economic situation deteriorates, a large number who still have jobs are staying, particularly if they have their families here as well.

"Media scare stories can fuel resentment of these people at a time like this."

The Federation, which describes itself as the main umbrella organisation for Polish community groups in the UK, is asking the Government to:

* Provide independent statistics on how many citizens from the eight EU accession states are living in each district;

* Ensure that the programme for free English language lessons for EU citizens is made more widely available, including the provision of lessons in the workplace;

* Encourage further recruitment of Polish-speaking staff by local services, including police, to facilitate communications with Polish families and ensure that interpretation and translation costs are kept low;

* Ensure proper licensing and monitoring of employers and gangmasters, especially in the construction and hospitality sectors;

* Empower local housing authorities to enforce proper housing conditions and tenancy terms for Polish and other eastern European workers in the private sector and encourage companies to provide housing provision more integrated with the indigenous population;

* Get local health trusts to organise registration drives to ensure that all EU citizens living in their area have the opportunity to register with a local doctor or health clinic.

Local police authorities said specific figures on anti-Polish crime were not available.

A spokesman for Lincolnshire Police said that despite the relatively large number of Poles living in places such as Lincoln and Boston, anti-Polish crime did not appear to be a major problem.

"I don't see many reports of Poles being picked on," he said. "The major result of the downturn is rather that quite a lot have gone home."

Figures from the Metropolitan Police showed that racist crime overall in London had fallen slightly between 2007 and 2008, from 8,911 incidents to 8,800.